As a parent, you always want to do what's best for your little one, constantly searching for new ways to ensure they're happy and healthy. One common concern among parents is providing ample stimulation for their growing baby to help encourage neurological development. If you're looking for fun and effective ways to stimulate your baby's senses, this list will provide some of the best options for all five senses, so you can nurture your little bundle of joy and keep them engaged with the world around them.
What Can My Baby Sense?
Babies are born equipped with all of their senses, including hearing, sight, touch, taste, and smell, but they take time to develop fully. Many parents are curious to know just how much their little ones can sense, so let's take a closer look and find out.
Hearing. Hearing is one of the first senses to develop fully, with babies having the ability to detect sound while still in the womb. Moms can attest to this when they feel their baby jump inside their belly in response to loud and sudden noises. Newborns prefer and respond better to higher-pitched sounds like their mother's voice than they do to lower-pitched frequencies like their fathers (sorry, dad!) Interestingly, infants learn to tune out louder noises after multiple instances of exposure, which is a beneficial tip to remember for parents seeking to acclimate their baby to a multiple-child household. Serious hearing loss in newborns is relatively rare, resulting in two to three out of every one-thousand births, and may not be noticed until they are over a year old. Without proper hearing stimulation, a baby's speech and language may not mature on schedule, leading to emotional and social delays.
Sight. At birth, babies only have an eight to ten-inch focus range but quickly develop the ability to track items within a few weeks. Newborns cannot yet perceive the full-color wheel but can detect changes in light and dark. Babies' vision will continue to improve over the first two to three years, generally reaching 20/20 at around three years old.
Touch. Touch is fully developed before birth and is an essential part of helping your little one acclimate to life outside the womb. Human touch is essential for proper development, dispelling the old-wives tale that you can spoil a baby by holding them too much (spoiler alert - you can't!)
Taste. Your baby's taste buds are already developing in the womb, and it's been shown they prefer sweet tastes over salty. In general, babies also prefer the taste of breastmilk, which can make feeding easier in the early days.
Smell. Babies' olfactory centers begin developing in the womb, and once born, newborns already have a strong sense of smell. Quickly (usually within the first few days after birth), infants show a strong propensity for their mother's scent, including her breast milk, helping to create an unbreakable bond.
How To Stimulate Your Baby's Senses
Now that you have a better idea of how your little one's senses work, we can begin looking at ways you can stimulate them.
Hearing is one of the easiest senses to stimulate for your baby since it often takes only your voice. You can also use different toys for exposure to many different sounds; just be sure to keep the decimals low so as not to damage their sensitive eardrums. Listed below are a few activities to stimulate your baby's hearing.
- Sing to them
- Read a book
- Narrate what your doing
- Use a white-noise machine
- Play with a sensory toy featuring crinkling and rattling sounds
- Listen to music
Although a newborn can only see around a foot in front of them, by four months of age, your baby will have greatly developed their sense of sight. You can help this development by ensuring they have daily visual stimulation, which promotes eye growth and strength. Listed below are a few things you can do to promote visual stimulation.
- Use bright colors and bold patterns in the nursery
- Feed them on both sides of his body to introduce different angles
- Reposition the crib
- Make faces at them within their line of sight (smile, open your mouth, scrunch your face)
- Play games like peekaboo and pat-a-cake
- Go on outings to fun places like the zoo or park
- Walk around the neighborhood
If you notice something catches your baby's eye, give them a closer look and let them inspect it. Not only will this encourage eye development, but it will spur their growing imagination as well.
It's no surprise that babies discover the world around them mainly by touch, which is why they constantly put objects into their mouths. Not only is stimulating their sense of touch important for exploration and development, but it's essential to providing comfort and bonding with your child. Don't be surprised when your baby quickly begins touching everything in sight and putting it into their little mouth; just be sure you always provide them with safe, clean toys to enjoy. Let's look at some ways you can stimulate your baby's sense of touch.
- Hold your baby (skin-to-skin is great!)
- Rub lotion on them after bathing
- Introduce different textures and sizes through blankets, stuffed animals, and toys (always provide proper supervision)
- Run their hands over the family pet
- Provide plenty of kisses
- Provide older babies with hands-on toys like balls, blocks, and books
Taste is one of the most fun senses for your baby to discover, but they may be picky at first. It's always good to reintroduce foods every month or so as their taste buds continue to develop and change. Here are some taste stimulation ideas.
- If breastfeeding, eat a wide variety of foods
- At six months, begin introducing age-appropriate foods
- Place fruits in a child-friendly teether (use frozen to soothe teething gums)
Your baby has a strong sense of smell, which is one of the ways they can identify you before their sight is fully developed. Just be careful not to use strongly scented items that may cause nasal irritation. You can encourage their olfactory development using the ideas below.
- Visit different places (grocery store, playground, parks)
- Cook a variety of different foods
- Use various lightly scented products
Stimulating your baby's senses is one of the best ways to encourage growth and help them stay on track developmentally. By utilizing some of the tips above, you can bond with your baby and help keep them happy and healthy! For more parenting tips and ideas, check out more of our articles and join thousands of parents just like you as we navigate parenthood together!